In c.221 BC, during the Chin Dynasty, China was subject to invasions from the North. At this time it was the Emperor Qin Shi Huang who ruled, and he who commissioned the construction of what was to be known as the Great Wall of China.
Although this original Great Wall of China didn’t survive completely, it was rebuilt in the centuries later and even to this day the wall that was built during the Ming Dynasty still stands. It is 5,500 miles in length, stretching from Lop Nur in Western China, to Shanghaiguan in Eastern China, and incorporates not only stone wall, but also defensive barriers and trenches too.
The construction of the Great Wall of China, also known in China as ‘Wan-Li Qang Qeng’ which literally translates to ten thousand li-long wall (‘li’ is around 5000 kilometres), was an incredible feat. Builders used whatever they could that was in the area, because transporting stone was so difficult. When building on mountains, they used the rock from them, but then when on flat ground they used tightly compacted earth. Valencia commented that all the materials used to build the Great Wall of China were enough to build a wall around the equator, five metres high and one metre thick.
Today the Great Wall of China is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one that is fiercely protected as it is in danger of being lost to the sands of the Badain Jaran desert. However, it is still very much open to tourists; many of whom take up the challenge of trying to walk certain lengths of it.
Many sections of the Great Wall of China have become damaged, to the extent that they cannot be traversed by tourists or hikers. In the west, particularly, the wall of is very susceptible to weather erosion because it is mostly constructed from mud. It looks starkly different to how it did in the second century BC, when its entirety was only interrupted by rivers or trenches; both of which were still useful in protecting China against invasion.
Other areas of the wall have been eroded by the sand storms that so very frequently blight the area, and continue to do so. The cube-shaped lookout towers along its length no longer disappear and in certain areas where towns and villages are nearby, there is a great deal of graffiti on the wall. It’s thought that if needed, certain parts of the wall may be used by locals to repair buildings and bridges in their own towns. Some sections have been repaired, such as the tourist centres in Northern Beijing, and it’s hoped that further measures will be taken to protect this UNESCO world heritage site and one of the seven wonders of the medieval world from sand storm erosion in the future.
How to Get There:
It’s best to visit the Great Wall of China in Spring, when the views from the mountain include scenes of lush greenery as well as the great workmanship too.
There are also various airports along the length of the Great Wall, but perhaps the biggest and most easy to fly to is the Beijing Capital International Airport. From there you can catch shuttle buses and minibus services to your accommodation in Beijing and then take a tour operators excursion right the wonder itself. There are many ways to visit it, but most involve taking a bus and then walking.
Where to Stay:
Beijing is a large city, so there are plenty of hotels to choose from which will match your budget.
One of the very best budget hotels in the area is the Double Happiness Courtyard Hotel where rooms are on average around $81 per night. Alternatively you could try the Holiday Inn Central Plaza which, although further outside of the centre of Beijing, has a gym, restaurant and swimming pool.
For a far more luxury stay, try the Regent Beijing where rooms start at around $190 per night. Here there is a business centre, swimming pool, restaurant and gym.